This year was somehow simultaneously one of the best and worst years of my life so far.
A lot happened in my life in 2016. I spent more time in nature and tried to be healthy by working out, learning yoga and going hiking.
I also read more books than I had read probably since high school. As a child I enjoyed reading so much I often got in trouble for reading past my bedtime.
I made new friends this year and hopefully learned to be a better friend.
I also lost a friend and a boss to suicide and learned firsthand that depression and other mental illnesses can be fatal.
It would feel unfair to talk about my year and not mention the impact losing a friend to depression had on me. But I’d rather not focus on that because the holidays are supposed to be a cheerful, grateful time.
I traveled a lot this year and I feel fortunate for that. Traveling so much in one year meant I worked a lot of hours at two jobs, was often nearly broke and now have to spend most of 2017 paying back credit. But having an almost empty bank account was worth the experiences.
The best trip I took was to Europe in the summer, traveling to a new city every two days with a group of high school friends and a couple of their friends.
Two weeks, six places — seven if I include our quick stop in Pisa for lunch and pictures in front of the Leaning Tower. We walked about 10 miles each day which was exhausting but a lot of fun.
I learned that people are more similar than they are different, most people are kind and just trying to get through their day-to-day life, and pride in one’s country is something everyone has in common.
While in Europe, I often found myself not expecting, but hoping my encounters would be with people knew at least a little bit of English or Spanish. I tried to remember basic French from the two years I studied the language in high school and tried to learn basic Italian words. But most of us relied on our English and Spanish while traveling. This made me feel guilty, as I don’t think Americans should expect the rest of the world to cater to them as much as we sometimes do. Most people we encountered did know English, some knew Spanish and we were grateful for that.
Visiting London, Paris and Amsterdam, and in Italy, Rome, Pisa, Venice and Cinque Terre, I learned a lot about different European cultures, history and politics. We visited the Natural History Museum, the Anne Frank House and the Louvre, saw the Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Arc de Triomphe, the Colosseum, Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel.
We took a gondola ride in Venice, went out dancing in Rome, and swam in a rock beach in the Ligurian Sea on Italy’s northwest coast.
We also ate a lot of delicious pizza, pasta, crepes, croissants, Dutch pancakes, and gelato. I honestly don’t think I’ll ever feel satisfied eating pizza in the U.S. after that trip.
Some of my other trips this year were mostly to visit family and friends in Arizona. My most recent trip home was last weekend, and I got to meet my newest baby nephew, Giovanni. He’s one month old and really cute, but of course I’m biased.
I also accepted a job at the Mercury and moved to Kansas this year, trading in the Black Hills for the Flint Hills and going from copy editing to reporting. I have to admit, the Black Hills are more beautiful and mystical — sorry Kansans.
If you haven’t visited western South Dakota, I recommend it. But in Kansas, I get to see my boyfriend every week and I get to report, which is ultimately what I want for my career.
Despite some of the not-so-great things that happened in 2016, I hope everyone had something to be grateful for this year and welcomes the new year with a smile on their face. Happy New Year!